Google Hummingbird AlgorithmAs some of you may know, Google quietly released a new algorithm update just a few weeks ago.  The release was in fact quite swift and quiet, yet most search engine experts seem to agree that “Hummingbird” as the new release has been called, is the biggest algorithm update in the last few years.  To make things a little more intriguing, few people seem to have a clear understanding of what they can do to their websites to adapt or adjust to hummingbird new requirements.

I follow a large number of search engine experts, blogs, and various reliable sources including of course, Google, to gather as much information as possible and as early as possible in the release stages to be able to anticipate any adjustments that we may need to make on our clients’ websites.  Here are a few excerpts of what most reliable sources.

Amit Shingal, Google SVP/Fellow, Software Engineer and head of Google’s core ranking team explained the need for the new algorithm this way:

 “The change needed to be done, because people have become so reliant on Google that they now routinely enter lengthy questions into the search box instead of just a few words related to specific topics.”

This statement alone tells us the Google is very interested in providing answers to most searchers questions, especially, if they can keep searchers within and not going to other sites.  I know… this could potentially be bad news for everyone working on SEO these days.

Another fact that has probably moved Google towards launching this new algorithm is that according to most usability studies out there, a large percentage of searches, some say 50% or higher, are initiated from mobile devices.  As I’ve said several times on this Blog, people’s habits are shifting and they are using their mobile devices more and their PCs less.  A searcher asking a long question through a mobile device is more likely to voice the search than actually type the search.  In two words, a mobile device voice search is simply faster and safer.  I can’t imagine many people typing “where is the nearest Home Depot?” while driving around town.

Another Search Engine expert, Paul Bruemmer,  wrote an article on Search Engine Land called Future SEO: Understanding Entity Search, that also touches on some of the new Hummingbird features.

“This is Google’s solution for evolving from text links to answers. Such a system will display more precise results faster, as it’s based on semantic technology focused on user intent rather than on search terms. To review Google’s progress in this direction: first came the Knowledge Graph, then Voice Search and Google Now — all providing answers, and sometimes even anticipating the questions. To serve these answers, Google relies on entities rather than keywords.”

He also adds: “Google has been rolling-out incremental changes related to structured data over the past five years.  It is a clear path for providing better search results for all the engines, Google, Yahoo! and Bing. Structured data is valued by search engines and it is being used (aggregated) to enhance the SERPs, providing a better user experience producing higher click-through-rates (CTR). Currently there’s not enough scientific raw data to correlate structured data with improved rankings. However, observation and experience from qualified SEO practitioners suggest the influence of structured data is at the top of the tactical To Do list.”

Eric Ward from Search Engine Land also has some interesting thoughts regarding Google’s intent as it comes to Hummingbird.

“Good content with strong backlinks may no longer be enough,” Ward says. “This may be painful to hear, but logic dictates that if Google is anticipating longer search phrases and answering questions directly, then that means even if you have a great answer to that same question and your page containing that answer ranks at position 4, the end user may never see it or click on it because Google has answered the question for them.”

Again, all of this seems to indicate that Google is looking for ways to keep users on as much as possible by generating answers from the result page when possible and not necessarily links that will lead the user to your website.  If your website includes a better answer, properly laid out data may lead Google to believe that your site can provide a better answer.

As you see in the title of this article “How Will Google’s Hummingbird Algorithm Impact Your Website?”  I’ve already set it up in the form of a question.  Maybe I should just voice it on my smartphone to see what answer Google comes up with.  The worry among Search Engine programmers is that if users are going to start getting their answers without having to leave Google, they’re not going to have click on links to other sites to find any other information.

Not so fast though.  If you’ve been working diligently on your website, adding frequent and original content to it, relevant to your particular field, chances are you will still earn good ranks with Google.  If anything, your website authority and reputation, as described many times over the past few months, will become more important than ever before.  Hummingbird will not take that away from you.  As Ward says “Google has said content is king for years, and with long tail phrases and conversational searching, authoritative content will continue to win.”

Here are some additional comments that most search engine experts seem to agree on, again according to Eric Ward:

  • Google has said the Hummingbird algorithm represents the biggest change in 12 years.
  • Hummingbird is part of Google’s need to become less dependent on keywords.
  • Google’s Penguin and Panda were additions to the existing algorithm, but Hummingbird is a complete replacement of the algorithm. Penguin and Panda have been incorporated into the Hummingbird algorithm.
  • Hummingbird looks at over 200 signals when determining search rank for a site — and PageRank appears to be one of them.
  • Links can and will continue to impact PageRank, meaning that credible backlinks are a major component of Hummingbird.
  • Google Plus will impact the search experience, but not in the same way for all people and all searches

Finally, for those of you confused between what “Penguin” and “Panda” algorithm updates have achieved over the past year or so and what Hummingbird will bring, the distinction is clear.  Penguin and Panda were just updates to the OLD algorithm.  Hummingbird is an entirely NEW algorithm.  It will still use some of the Penguin and Panda updates, but it is just like moving to a new house and bringing some elements that you upgraded from your old house.  Hummingbird is Google’s new “house” so to speak and the new search engine rules are already in effect since the end of September 2013.

How will Hummingbird affect current websites and rankings?  Too soon to tell.  But again, if we go by Google’s comments, if you were diligently optimizing your website pages with unique and authoritative content, you will be fine.  Stay tuned…

For more information about what Hummingbird or how it will impact Google searches in the future, I recommend this article from Search Engine Land.

And of course, if you have any questions, feel free to leave your comment below.  I always reply to comments and emails personally.

Until next time, this is Manuel Gil del Real (MGR)

Photo Courtesy Reginald Chan